Owning a Dog as a Shift Worker: Clever Tips to Make It Work

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You may have considered adopting or purchasing a dog but are yet to go through with it. Why? Because you’re worried about your schedule as a shift worker impacting the ability to care for your new companion. Don’t fret though, as owning your own furry friend is possible. Let us show you how. 

It’s natural to start doubting the possibility of owning a dog (or children as they quickly become) due to logistical difficulties and even ethical restraints, such as potentially prolonged time spent alone. But it can be your reality. Here are our clever tips to make it work.

If you are interested in checking out the best automatic dog feeder, you can find them on Amazon by clicking here.

The Dog Needs to Fit Your Shift Work Situation

Be firm with yourself when asking these following questions:

Is Buying or Adopting a Puppy Suitable for My Current Schedule?

Puppies require more time initially to train and adapt not only to their environment but also to you.

Leaving a young dog at home for an extended period, without adequate time to spend on training, can lead to your house/yard looking like a tornado has just torn it apart.

Nobody wants to get home after a night shift to spend 2 hours cleaning fluff from pillows and toys scattered throughout the home.

Whereas an older dog might be a better fit, particularly if it’s trained and doesn’t require as much exercise. There are also challenges here, as they could have some separation issues if their previous owners were around them a lot.

Some less than desirable “habits” could have been formed over the years too, which may not mesh with being a shift worker, but if the dog has been trained before, you may be able to break these.

For most, buying a puppy as a shift worker is not really possible due to the excessive time initially needed to train it, bond and allow them to become accustomed to your environment. 

Really consider this unless you have long service leave or are planning to take an extended vacation around the home. 

What Are the General Tendencies of My Dog Breed?

This is critical for us shift workers, as selecting a dog breed from a pretty picture, which we’ve all done before, can come back to haunt us. Researching the general tendencies of dog breeds before you make a final selection is important.

Is the dog happy with its own company?

Does it like to laze around all day?

We recently had a shift working friend purchase a greyhound, who suggested to us they were the perfect dog for her lifestyle – quiet disposition, love being left alone and typically have a low level of endurance – less time for walking.

Dan’s parent’s dog, on the other hand, can’t go 5 minutes without craving attention from someone or something (this could have less to do with the breed and more to do with the owners).

Anyway, do your research and find a dog that is comfortable in its own skin and can be happy on it’s lonesome for an extended period.     

I did recently stumble across a program called braintraing4dogs that “develops your dog’s hidden intelligence” and it’s well worth a look. It can help eliminate bad behaviors in dogs and train obedient, well behaved pets.

Pick the Appropriate Breed for Your Living Space

What space do I have for a kennel/cage/play area?

If living in an apartment or townhouse with minimal to no backyard, is a larger dog who likes to run and is very energetic suitable?

Or is a smaller dog ideal for this space? Getting a Border Collie would be different than getting a pug for example.

Again, be harsh with your decision making here.

Just because “that’s the dog you’ve always wanted” may not make it right as a shift worker and the space you have to work with.

Both a Man and Shift Workers Best Friend- 9 Health Benefits of Owning a Dog - The Other Shift-Pug

Where Will the Dog Sleep and Be Safe From Potential Falling Objects?

Are they going to be an indoor or outdoor dog? Are you happy for the dog to roam outside in your backyard (if available) when on night shift or is there another place they can sleep overnight like the laundry or kennel?

Once settled on a particular breed or mixed breed, research how to best manage your particular dog in the space you have available. Seek advice from a breeder/vet.

Man standing with brown dog between legs _ owning a dog as a shift worker

Set up Your Safe, Dog-Friendly Environment

Your dog will potentially spend an extended period of time on their own, so ensure the environment is safe and resources are available such as food, toys and warmth until you get home to smother them with love!

There are a few items I would definitely consider purchasing as a shift worker who doesn’t have the luxury of neighborly help or family support.

These items are:

Automatic Pet Feeder:

Automatic feeders totally take the stress away from not being physically there to feed your pet, a huge concern for most.

We recommend the Wopet 7L Automatic Pet FeederOpens in a new tab. because you can dispense different meal potions depending on your dog size, pre-record your voice to tell you dog its “dinner time.”

You can schedule up to 4 meals per day, it runs on wall power and has a nifty, secure lid so your dog can’t get into all the food, despite trying!

This method of portion control also allows your dog to remain a healthy weight from not overfeeding them (particularly if you feel guilting about working overtime!).

See the Wopet feeder on Amazon here

Some fancy automatic feeders also have wi-fi capabilities like the PetSafe Smart Feed Automatic Dog and Cat Feeder.Opens in a new tab.

These machines are a little more expensive but allow you to control your pet’s meal time from anywhere using your smartphone.

Plus, this particular model can program up to 12 meals a day which could be ideal for those long shifts. See it on Amazon here.

Dog Food Insider Tip…

On an important side note, I had to mention whilst talking about food, commercial pet foods may not be as healthy for your dog as first thought. This video (and book pictured below) does a much better job of explaining the secrets these dog food companies keep from us than I ever could and it’s worth taking a look here.

My mind was blown by reading this book. Click here to see what some companies don’t want us to know.

Wireless Fence

Do you live in a property with limited fences? Are you worried your dog could roam into places you don’t exactly encourage when you’re not around?

Getting a wireless fence will give you some peace of mind when working a long shift.

Despite the unusual noises in the neighborhood your dog won’t be tempted to run off and explore what’s going on.

If you don’t want to install a physical fence, a gentle electric fence will quickly train your dog to avoid “no-go-zones.”

I know it could seem harsh, but these fences won’t harm your dog in the long term and seem very effective.

We recommend two options here depending on your level of handyman skills.

Writing the word “lounge” sounds very exotic for a dog, but if you’re potentially spending a ton of time away from your dog why not spoil them with a nice bed?

We recommend the Friends Forever Orthopedic, Memory Foam Dog Lounge.Opens in a new tab. 

I think this “lounge” could be more comfortable than some human beds!

There are different sizes available too depending on your type and size of dog. It’s worth a browse on Amazon here.

women playing catch with dog on beach at night

But there are also a few other important things to consider in your environment when owning a dog as a shift worker.

Some cost a bit of money in the initial set up but others won’t.

A Doggy Door

Some are lovers of the doggy door and some are not for security and logistical reasons but it could be worth another thought.

You don’t ever have to worry about a thunderstorm, rain or extreme heat on days you are not home to let them inside the air-conditioned home, as they can do it themselves.

Most rental properties will not allow for modifications like this but why not ask?

The owners might love dogs! If you do get the go-ahead, or you install one in your own property, try butting a large crate up against the doggy door.

The dog can then move inside if it rains or is cold, whilst going outside into the crate to relieve themselves.

The Paws & Pals Dog Crate is hugely popular and affordable for the price in comparison to some others on Amazon.

Check it out here and see explore the different sizes available. 

Establish a Safe Sleeping Area

Provide a comfortable sleeping area and mat. 

The laundry seems a popular choice, which currently works wonders for my husband Dan’s family as it’s safe and is away from breakable objects.

The garage may seem like a good idea, and could be for some shift workers, but ours is full of shoes and sharp objects so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Consider the sleeping area also being tiled, for inside dogs.

If near a TV, we suggest having it on as a distraction. However, our dogs used to get very excited if they saw another dog on TV so we started using KOOLTAIL Washable Pee Pads Opens in a new tab.on Amazon which worked great.

Kennels seem the standard for outside dogs, as they are protected from the elements and can give owners peace of mind in rain or cold conditions.

Have Lots of Fun Toys Available They Won’t Get Sick of

Dogs treat ANYTHING as a toy. Yeah, your shoes, washing…anything!

Here are a few toys to lower the temptation for them to go to town on your footwear!


Does your dog like to fetch? I recently stumbled across a cool dog toy for shift workers which allows dogs to fetch the balls they “throw”. There a few around but I liked the sound of the DOGMATE Dog Ball LauncherOpens in a new tab.. The reviews are great and it seems very effective to pass your dogs time when you’re not around.


The Ultra-Durable Chew ToyOpens in a new tab. is a tough durable ring perfect for the aggressive chewers. They will probably still be chewing on this darn thing until you get home from a shift! See it on Amazon.


This toy might not be ideal for night shift as it could wake up the enter neighborhood at 3 am, but the Wobble Wag Giggle BallOpens in a new tab. could be the perfect way to entertain your dog during the day.

It makes high pitched noises that almost mimic the sounds of a child laughing which changes as the ball rolls. It’s pretty neat and available on Amazon here.

Give Quality Attention to Your Dog Around Your Shifts

Early/1st Shift

Get up 15 – 30 minutes earlier before your shift and either walk the dog or do age-appropriate exercises like fetch and playing outside.

Tire them out so they are more content and well behaved during the day and less likely to become destructive and bark excessively.

Dogs need to rest after a workout just like humans, so don’t be afraid to get them panting in the morning.

Once returned from work, give them love, food and more exercise, but I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that…

Late/2nd Shift/Swing Shift

Spend time with your dog before you leave for work. Go on a big walk, take them to the dog park and interact with other dogs (and humans!).

Your dog will need a ‘time-out’ after this and will likely sleep while you’re at work.

Set them up for the afternoon/night to be alone with enough food, toys and water. This nifty, fun, slow feeder dog bowlOpens in a new tab. may help your dog from eating their food too quickly! 

Night Shift

Can you think of a better way to beat those night shift blues than a cute face looking at you through the window? We can’t either! 

For night shift workers you have a few options to make this work.

Before the shift, drop off your dog to a very kind friend or family member you trust while you are working then pick them up the following morning.

The second option is to keep them at home alone throughout at the night in a safe place.

Once you get home, play with them, but limit the blue light by wearing your blue light blocking glasses. Read more about them here.  

Fingers crossed the dog needs to sleep (like you!), as you’ve worn them out. If they have too much energy still, place them in a room away from where you sleep, so you don’t have disturbances.

Thirdly, investigate 24-hour dog sitters in your area. They may charge a premium for work at this time but it could give you peace of mind while you’re working.

ALSO – Never run out of dog food again and cause undue stress before a night shift. PetFlow.com has you sorted!

They offer free shipping on a huge range of food items which are worth checking out by clicking on the image below.

Save $30 on AutoShip at PetFlow

12-hour Shift

This one pulls at our heartstrings the most as they are alone for a prolonged period, but it can be done. 

If you start at 7 am and need to leave the house at 6.15 am, can you get up even 15 minutes earlier to play with your dog or take them on a quick walk around the block?

Personally, going to bed a bit earlier can make this possible.

But if you’re struggling to sleep because you’re not tired, check out this post we wrote titled, “How To Fall Asleep Quickly Even When You’re Not Tired” it’s packed with simple ideas to put you into snooze land.

If you don’t get home till after 8 pm, utilize the automatic dog feeder we mentioned earlier along with a comfortable bed and plenty of water during the day.

Plus, and this is important, think about how they will receive social contact.

Think about using a dog sitter/walker service, neighbors, family…etc. Be open to different ideas on how your dog can interact with others during the day.

Once you get home, despite being potentially exhausted from work, spend time with your dog and make them feel loved.

They will forgive you and appreciate the time you took to organize fun stuff during the day.

Can You Take Your Dog to Work?

Don’t scoff at this one! If your employer has never been approached about bringing dogs into work how do you know it’s not possible?

This may seem crazy for some of you, but my workplace back in Australia allows for a dog to visit on particular days of the week and it’s a hospital! It’s been unbelievable for staff and their mental health.

We never thought it was possible either but look what happens when you ask.

Dog sitting under chair at cafe

Use Your Days off Wisely

This goes without saying, but give them all your love when you can.

If you decide to meet up with friends, why not take your dog along? It will help them adjust to different environments and they will love the attention from your mates!

Need some ideas for things to do on your day off with your dog? Here are a few you could try:

  • Organize doggy dates to the park with your friends who do (or don’t) have a dog. This will allow bonding with other dogs and also with your friends outside in the sun in a long overdue catch-up!
  • Attend dog training school on the weekends or where you can find a mid-week session which ties in nicely with your schedule.
  • Research if there’s any dog-friendly bars, café, outdoor restaurants or festivals in your area which you could explore and show off your dog.
  • Check the weather – if it’s looking grim for the next few days, schedule an extra play date or extended time with the frisbee, as you know time outside will be limited.
  • The same mentality should be applied when you’re working multiple days in a row.
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Ask For Help 

As a dog owner plus being a busy shift worker, you need to expect the unexpected.

Potential overtime, traffic delays, hold-ups at work, the boss wants to talk to you and impromptu meetings. Being surrounded by people who can help will make a huge difference to the life of your dog.

This is going to seem blunt (sorry it’s my Dutch heritage) but relying on others (like family or housemates) isn’t the reason to buy a dog if they are not interested in the getting a dog idea.

That’s crazy talk and this strategy doesn’t work in the long run.

This part of weighing up dog ownership is pretty critical in my opinion particularly if you work 12-hour shifts.


  • Do you live with others, where housemates or family can be called upon in an unexpected situation?
  • Use doggy day care services (licensed/bonded sitters), volunteer rescue groups or even a nighttime dog walker who can assist with walking and feeding.
  • Asking your neighbors to help feed your dog or even walk them may not be the burden you think it is. They will love it! – Consider though who you’re trusting with a spare key to your home.
  • Is there a young kid in your street who you trust to take them for a walk for some extra pocket money?
  • If money is tight, would you consider using a shockable dog collar? I know again, similar to the fence suggestion earlier, it may seem horrible but it can VERY QUICKLY teach your dog basic obedience commands and overcome any persistent, uncontrollable behavior problems.

This could be a blessing in disguise when you’re out on shift, knowing your dog is well behaved due to your previous training.

If you are interested in this method we recommend the Rechargeable Dog Shock CollarOpens in a new tab. on Amazon because it has three safe but very effective modes (beep, vibration and shock).  The reviews are pretty incredible too.  

Bonus Tip: Get Pet Insurance 

Take the worry out of leaving your best mate at home and organize pet insurance. I used to think this sounded a little crazy but why not support the fury members of our families like like we do our cars and homes? They deserve it.

What Are the Barriers to Owning a Dog as a Shift Worker?

So now you’re pumped up and about to go dog shopping, we wanted to reiterate the common shift worker concerns and be sure you’ve thought over how you’ll manage these items before investing your money into the new companion.

How will you resolve possible issues like:

  • An extended period of time alone either locked inside the home, kennel or outside in varying weather conditions.
  • Limited time for exercise, walks and ability to socialize with other dogs during daytime hours when working (particularly 12-hour shifts).
  • If locked inside, free from a cage, there is the potential for the dog to chew on precious items like the couch, shoes, clothing or pillows.
  • Extended time required by your dog to hold their bladder (if locked inside).
  • Potential issues with neighbors if your dog barks overnight while you’re on night shift and totally unaware of fireworks, wild animals and other distractions.
  • Not having enough space at home for the breed of dog you’re set on buying.

When considering owning a dog as a shift worker, it’s important to really think about this stuff and not rush into a decision. Which I’m guessing your not if you’re taking the time to read this far into the post. 

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Summary: Owning a Dog as a Shift Worker: Clever Tips to Make It Work

Owning a dog as a shift worker is absolutely possible…

if you’re ready to make some changes and alterations to your current lifestyle and make sure they are a priority.

And we will say, any bad shift is simply made so much better when you get home and there is someone super excited to see you!

What do you think about owning a dog as a shift worker? Are you currently doing it? What other strategies do you use?

Craving more pet talk? Best Pets For Shift Workers, That Don’t Crave Your Attention


Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

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Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

12 thoughts on “Owning a Dog as a Shift Worker: Clever Tips to Make It Work

  1. Thanks for the reminder that the age of a dog is also essential to consider when planning to buy one. I’d like to look for a pet shop soon because I’m thinking about having my own dog as a companion. I think that will be a good way for me to not feel too lonely even when living alone.


  2. I am planning on starting a 10 hour shift, night job. I am getting a 3 month old Yorkshire terrier, shih tzu, pomeranian mix. Want to know, 1st of all, is it cruel to keep him home ALL alone with just my 2 cats for that long? I live in an apartment and I am afraid that he will bark and whine and cry while I am gone and annoy my upstairs, and surrounding neighbors.. What is the best way to keep him busy enough so he won’t do that? Unfortunately I will be working too far away to be able to come home on a break to spend with him, so I will try and get someone to stop by and visit, but that’s probably about all I will be able to get. I’m not as much worried about him peeing and pooping around, as I am about him barking and whining and crying for a long time period. How many pee pads should I lay out for him in that time period? I will try and have a radio going, for noise, but no axcess to a TV in his room where I can easily put a crate, bed, a bunch of toys, enough food and layout Pee pads for him. Will he end up chewing the pee pads? So many questions!

  3. It s not just shiftworkers who are challenged; all full-time workers should think seriously about the impact and implications of a dog being left home alone. If you work full-time and want to have a dog you need to have an enormous amount of back-up, such as a dog walker coming in while you re at work.

    1. We totally agree with you here! Introducing a new family member into the home and having that extra company does require thought and planning. We suggest everyone who wants to consider buying a dog needs to think hard about it being the right fit for them and their situation.

  4. I’ve had my dog for several years first as a family dog then more on my own. I work nights and last night was the first time she was without me at bedtime. According to one of my roommates, she didn’t settle down until 12-1 am. She was used to me being home 24/7 for four months. What can I do to get her used to me being gone at night?

    1. Hi Caitlin,
      Our furry friends enjoy our presence sometimes more than we know! With you not being there at night a new experience for your dog, I would suggest you establish an environment that the dog knows is for sleeping (eg. special room, enclosed area, cage, etc.). It can’t have visibility of your presence either, even when you are home (a family member has a setup just outside their bedroom, though the dog can’t see in). Over time, when placed into the sleeping environment, the dog will be more comfortable with its own presence and may not notice you have gone to work. Be persistent though, as the first few weeks will consist of crying and random wakeup times, but hopefully this helps with managing your dogs sleeping habits in the long run.

  5. I have a very active 1.5 yr old shihpoo. My mil lived with his until a month ago and I started having to work nights. We have pads down that he uses multiple times per day as I sleep for 6-8 hrs. Now if the pads aren’t there and it’s a day off, he’ll find a place to pee. Also I want my rugs back because he was constantly peeing on them as a puppy. Any thoughts? Love your blog and topics

    1. Sounds like you’ve worked hard in training you furry friend! Keep persisting with the pads and we believe rewarding your animal when they’ve done the right thing is key. However, not too many rewards as over eating can lead to a few extra pounds for your dog, just like us humans. They like routine so use consistent, commanding phrases which prompt them to do their business in areas of your choosing. Thank you for your support and glad we could be of assistance!

  6. This was great. I too am a nurse I work everyday some days 7-9hrs with an her to travel. Right now I’m house sitting for my aunts 6 month old shih tzu. Whom I’ve thought about taking full time. However I’m nervous. I’m scared I won’t have enough time. I do take her our prior before work and immediately once I’m home, I do give her attention and play. I just hate she’s left alone. Also I live in an apartment so access to get help is slim to none as I don’t trust anyone. I love this dog and the feeling is mutual. Also, she doesn’t use the pads. She starting to get into everything when left alone. I do leave her with food/water and toys. I just got a dog gate so I can transition her to a new location. Do you suggest I keep her or give her back? I’m prepared for work but I also want to consider the dog

    1. Thanks for your kind comment Jasmine.
      It sounds like you two are best of mates and I can see why you want to keep her! Personally (and chatting to Dan) we think it’s possible you can make it work. Continue to walk her before and after a shift and make sure there is enough toys/food/play area and it’s safe. I would spend some time on the dog training side of things in regards to what is acceptable behavior in your home (eg. what is a toy and what’s not and where to do her business). She is probably getting into things because she’s bored/hungry/needs to walk etc and it’s her way of trying to tell you. Great idea with the dog gate and new area. I think this will make a big difference. If it all get’s too much, a friend or a service to help are always options to consider, even though less desirable as you mentioned. Good Luck. Em

  7. Hi guys! Thanks for all of your great advice! I too am about to start my career as a nurse. I am predicting that for some time I will be working 12 hour night shifts. I live with two family members who are very familiar with raising large dogs and are willing to help me, but we are all still a bit hesitant and want to make sure that we’ve thought this through and are being wise in our decision. That being said, I have wanted to have my own dog for years now and it’s hard to know when and if there is ever a perfect time. As a fellow nurse, do you have any further advice on what it’s like to adjust to a new nursing job while also having a new dog at home? Is it better to adjust to one before the other? Thanks!

    1. Hey Hannah! Congrats on starting your new job. If I were you, I would firstly adjust to life as a new nurse before buying a dog. As exciting as starting your new career will be, there will be challenges. You will want your home life to be a special, calm place where you can reset. Trying to train a dog and manage everything that comes with dog ownership may be a little stressful if you already have a heap on your plate. Only at a time when you feel comfortable on the work front would I seriously look into getting a dog. The help offered by your family is lovely but this could add to the stress of you feeling guilty? Just our thoughts. Good luck!

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